I've avoided doing a wrap-up post about the trip mainly because I'm focusing my thoughts into some comics that will be released online in early November. I've also written a short essay for The Oregonian
that will appear this Sunday in the Op-Ed section.
There's nothing like a visit to a third world war zone to bring into sharp focus the irrelevancy of the 24-hour news cycle to most of our lives. I knew it before. Now I'm practically in despair over it. After continually monitoring the daily news for years, I'm finding it hard to jump back in. I don't care about Christine O'Donnell. She means nothing. And yet I know in another week I'll be back to normal, penning the kinds of cartoons I was a month ago, my complaints about life limited to deadlines and some girl not texting me back as quickly as I would have preferred. Republicans will be busy destroying the country, Democrats will be letting them and someone will have said something stupid that everyone--including me!
--will be talking about.
A man in Florida threatens to burn the Quran and he's an outrageous oddball to draw cartoons about and watch John Stewart masterfully mock. Then, when you are in a country like Afghanistan while this is going on, you realize that this lunatic, along with the media that elevated him to a global sensation, are directly threatening your life.
The situation flamed up--oh, I can feel the editorial cartoonist in me coming back
--just as we were trekking by land into the safe and welcoming arms of Iran before the riots started. A number of Afghans died, but a number of Afghans always die. They don't get the box every day in the paper ticking away each loss.
The Iranians told us we were the first Americans to cross by land from Afghanistan since the revolution. They were nice enough considering we were three American journalists. They didn't search or scan our bags. Not even a pat down. They said it would be rude. While boarding a train to Tehran we flashed our passports and were ushered through security, all of our bags unmolested. Of course, it's all to put a nice face on their police state for foreigners, but hey, it sure was appreciated! I kept wondering if we'd treat an Iranian visitor the same.
And then you're on a plane watching Up
and wondering what the hell you were doing for a month.
So now I know what Afghanistan is like. It's a real place with real people and you can get on a plane (or two or four) and go there
. A few weeks ago I was in a war-torn country where people have next to nothing. Today I can walk to the store and choose from 47 kinds of toothbrushes. It's completely insane the way we live, but come to think of it, the bristles on my toothbrush are all smushed down and I know my tooth brushing experience could be slightly better than it currently is. America is good at solving these kinds of problems. I think I'll head to the store.